Study finds average consumption of sodium is safe for heart health

  • Study finds average consumption of sodium is safe for heart health

    New research shows that for most individuals, sodium consumption does not increase health risks except for those who eat more than five grams a day, the equivalent of 2.5 teaspoons of salt. Fewer than 5% of individuals in developed countries exceed that level.

    The research, published in The Lancet, is by scientists of the Population Health Research Institute (PHRI) of McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences, along with their research colleagues from 21 countries. The study followed 94,000 people, aged 35–70, for an average of eight years in communities from 18 countries around the world. The results showed an associated risk of cardiovascular disease and strokes only where the average intake is greater than five grams of sodium a day. China is the only country in the study where 80% of communities have a sodium intake of more than five grams a day. In the other countries, the majority of the communities had an average sodium consumption of three to five grams a day.

    “The World Health Organization recommends consumption of less than two grams of sodium—that’s one teaspoon of salt—a day as a preventative measure against cardiovascular disease, but there is little evidence in terms of improved health outcomes that individuals ever achieve at such a low level,” said Andrew Mente, study author and a PHRI researcher. He added that the American Heart Association recommends even less—1.5 grams of sodium a day for individuals at risk of heart disease.

    “Only in the communities with the most sodium intake—those over five grams a day of sodium—which is mainly in China, did we find a direct link between sodium intake and major cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke,” explained Mente. “In communities that consumed less than five grams of sodium a day, the opposite was the case. Sodium consumption was inversely associated with myocardial infarction or heart attacks and total mortality, and no increase in stroke.”

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